Success Stories

Lease-land Paddy Cultivation by Women

Kuttanad, with its sprawling paddy fields, was once the rice bowl of Kerala. By a twist of fate, it has started becoming the begging bowl of the state, due to a host of reasons, the neglect of paddy cultivation being the primary one. Weighed down by odds, such as rising cost of production, non-availability of laborers, dwindling productivity, many farmers stopped paddy cultivation altogether. Many fields were lying uncultivated. Meanwhile the region was becoming heavily dependent of food grains brought from other states. Into this depressing situation came a number of women’s groups with the daring idea of group farming of paddy. FREED provided them the motivation and financial institutions, such as Syndicate Bank, KGB, Canara Bank, UCO Bank, Vijaya Bank, with re-finance guarantee from NABARD, provided the finance by way of agricultural loan. Today 3538 acres of wetland lying idle in areas, such as Kainakari, Champakulam, Nedumudi in Kuttanad, are under paddy cultivation. Women’s collectives produce nearly 2000 metric tonnes of paddy a year. These women’s groups numbering more than 700, in addition to earning precious cash, also serve the country by promoting local food security in a systematic way. There is an element of social revolution too in this, since these are landless women, who once worked as daily wage earners in the farms belonging to rich farmers. These landless women today are the proud of owners of farms, raised on lands belonging to the landed gentry.

Coir Villages
With a view to reviving the traditional cottage coir industry, in collaboration with the Coir Board, FREED implemented an innovative project called ‘Coir Village’. Under this scheme, groups of 8 women own mechanized coir yarn production units. Today there are 90 such groups with a total membership of 720 coir workers, forming a Coir Village. Mechanization has led to 125% increase in production in a matter of one year. The fiber required for spinning is procured from local merchants, who have agreed to buy the finished product of coir yarn.

Home Dairy Project
The Home Dairy project, initiated in partnership with the Corporation Bank, has today 900 families as participants. Each beneficiary was given two cows. The families earn a minimum of Rs.250 as net income on a daily basis. Production of milk has palpably contributed to local food security. In addition, the bio-gas plants set up by the families look after the cooking fuel needs of the families. High quality bio-fertilizer from the bio-gas plants is used as manure for organic food crop farming.

New Life for Kongini Women
Konginis are descendants of people who migrated from the Konkan region and got settled centuries ago in Kerala. Alappuzha has a strong contingent of Konginis. The Kongini women traditionally would never go out for work. They had no work and therefore no income. Their productive capacities were never put to use. FREED mobilized these women into Joint Liability Groups (JLG) under the NABARD scheme and provided them skill training. Today empowered and capacitated, they are engaged in a variety of income fetching occupations, including food processing, supply of lunch packets on order, production and sale of sweet meats, tailoring, making flower garlands. For the first time in their life they have been able to save small sums in Banks, Post Office and LIC. An average of Rs.2000 is saved every month by each member of the group. Regular income fetching work has boosted their self-confidence and improved their familial as well as social status. They count the intervention of FREED as one of the greatest boons in their life.

Blessings from Cow
Geetha from Mannanchery Panchyat in Alappuzha District has successfully experimented with the Indian belief that cows are the best source of multiple blessings for rural families. It was nine years ago that Geetha took a loan from FREED for starting her small dairy unit with just two cows. Today she has 6 milk yielding cows plus calves and bulls. She earns Rs.1000 per day from sale of milk alone. The sale of bulls bring additional income. With the income she was able to educate her daughter up to M.Com. She is able to save more than Rs.1000 on a monthly basis. She uses the cow dung and cow urine to do organic farming of various native food crops in her 85 cent-plot. This ensures year round food security for the family. The surplus farm produce is sold for additional income. Geetha believes in the wisdom of generous sharing of resources with the neighbors. She gives the surplus cow dung free of charge to as many as 8 households for encouraging organic food crop farming. These families in their turn are happy to share the grass and crop residues as fodder for Geetha’s cows. The small scale dairy unit Geetha started with FREE-mediated micro-finance, has revolutionized the style and quality of life of several families in the locality.

Own Your House
From 2006, in partnership with the Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC), FREED implemented a rural housing scheme, under which 1100 houses have been built. These low-cost houses, measuring 30 sq.meters and costing around Rs.1,00,000, were built by the concerned families, using as far as possible locally available materials and skills. While HDFC provided Rs. 75,000 as loan, the remaining amount was raised by the owners of the houses. A striking feature of this housing scheme is that the vast majority of the houses were sanctioned in the name of women, which has helped to boost their self-esteem and social status. The beneficiaries were selected by the local SHGs, on the basis of clear criteria.